Blog Archives

Viewpoint: Phoenix budget woes, big art, light rail made ’09 quite a year

[Source: Arizona Republic; section headers organized by yours truly] — With this being Christmas week, we figured you wouldn’t want to read a traditional editorial any more than we wanted to write one.  So today, we lighten things up a bit with awards for notable achievements in 2009.

Phoenix Overall

  • Story of the year: Phoenix did the virtually impossible this year — it cut $270 million from the general fund to balance the budget due to low sales-tax revenue.  Residents are feeling the effects with reduced hours or closures of swimming pools, libraries, and senior centers.  They also see more graffiti and potholes because staff is stretched so thin.  Now the city is talking about cutting an additional $100 million or so.  This story is getting old.
  • Best cheerleader: Mayor Phil Gordon earns this award again.  With frequent trips to Washington, D.C., to lobby for stimulus funds, and Janet Napolitano resigning as governor to lead Homeland Security, Gordon is the face of Arizona.
  • Embarrassment: Rep. Ray Barnes’ rambling reasons for voting to cut $144 million from public education.  Grab some eggnog and watch this Phoenix Republican go off.
  • Hot potato: The idea to raise the sales tax temporarily to generate revenue quickly.  Mayor Gordon suggested a community member take on his idea.  But no one wants to touch it.
  • Landmark: The city became the second in the state to offer a domestic-partner registry to gay or straight couples who share a Phoenix residence.  Among other privileges, the registry grants partners visitation rights in hospitals.
  • Pillar: City Manager Frank Fairbanks earns this award again.  He retired this year, but not before balancing the nastiest budget deficit in city history.  Thanks, Frank.

Downtown Focused/Strong Influence

  • Pushin’ on: Light rail has its fans and its foes.  But ridership is up and businesses have sprouted along the line.  The system is approaching it first anniversary.  We say light rail is on track.
  • Newcomer: Janet Echelman’s “Her Secret Is Patience” at the new Civic Space Park downtown opened to much criticism.  Meant to resemble a cactus bloom, the floating sculpture was called everything from a basketball hoop to a male contraceptive.  Not that we mind.  Some of the best artwork in the world drew heavy criticism.  We’re just glad people are noticing what downtown Phoenix has to offer.
  • Comeback: Phoenix Urban Market Grocery and Wine Bar at Central Avenue and Pierce Street is the first grocer to serve the area in 30 years.  It only carries the basics.  But milk, vegetables, bread, pasta and other staples are welcome.
  • Bragging rights: President Barack Obama made three visits to the Valley this year.  One of those was to the new Phoenix Convention Center, where Obama addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention.
  • Feather in the cap: A budding knowledge-based economy, parks and preservation efforts, and teen spaces at public libraries make Phoenix an All-America City.  Now it has the civic award to prove it.  This was Phoenix’s fifth win.  It would be a shame to lose these gains to budget cuts in the down economy.

Other Parts of Phoenix

  • Senseless act: A photo-enforcement-van driver was shot to death while deployed near Loop 101 in north Phoenix.  Thomas DeStories was indicted in connection with the shooting death of Douglas Georgianni.
  • Tallest story: Despite opposition from neighbors, the City Council approved a Mormon temple whose steeple and spire will rise 86 feet above the Deer Valley area.
  • Unsung hero: The Macehualli Day Labor Center in northeastern Phoenix provides a central location for day laborers and potential employers to negotiate business.  The center is for sale.

UA’s $470M downtown Phoenix medical school expansion stalled

[Source: Aaron Mackey, Arizona Daily Star] — A lawmaker-approved plan to spend $1 billion on building projects at the state’s three universities and stimulate the construction industry is likely dead after a legislative committee set to review the package canceled its meeting.  The cancellation of the Friday meeting means the projects — which included $470 million to expand the University of Arizona’s medical school in downtown Phoenix — probably won’t be reviewed until the Legislature convenes next year, dimming the prospects of the package ever being implemented.

Given the state’s growing deficit, lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Capital Review have been blocking the bond-funded projects, saying that the spending needs to be trimmed or cut entirely as they look for ways to make up for a shortfall that could reach $2 billion.  The decision by Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, to stall the projects — originally passed by lawmakers during the summer — has met with criticism from Gov. Janet Napolitano and leaders of the state’s three universities, who say Pearce is ignoring the will of the full Legislature.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Despite new D.C. job, Napolitano to keep midtown Phoenix condo

[Source: Daniel Scarpinato, blog entry, Arizona Daily Star] — When Janet Napolitano moves to D.C., probably next month, to start her gig as Barack Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security, expect to see her back in Arizona.  Napolitano says she plans to keep her [midtown] Phoenix condo and maintain her Arizona voter registration.

So, that begs the question of whether she sees herself running for elected office again, particularly in 2010 since she was often mentioned as a potential challenger to Sen. John McCain.  Dodging the first part of the question, Napolitano answered, “I don’t intend to run in 2010.”  And the plot thickens.

Arizona Governor nominated for U.S. Homeland Security Secretary

[Source: Janet Napolitano, Governor] — A few moments ago I was honored to accept the nomination of President Elect Obama to become the Secretary of Homeland Security.  I intend to resign as Governor once my nomination is confirmed by the Senate.

Just a little over six years ago we embarked on an extraordinary mission to serve the people of Arizona.  One of the things of which I am most proud is the team that has worked with me.  Your efforts have been invaluable and your service unparalleled.  I am proud of all we have accomplished together.

Trust me when I tell you that I know the future to be both exciting and a little unsettling.  I recognize that my departure comes almost two years ahead of what some of you may have planned.  As we manage through the last months of my Administration, we will work with all of you to ensure the smoothest transition for you and your families, for Secretary Brewer and for all of Arizona.

Please accept my heartfelt thanks for all you have done for me and for all Arizonans.

Governor Janet Napolitano

Phoenix politicos’ “Sweet Home Arizona”

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano tells the Democratic National Convention that “we cannot afford four more years of failing economics and a failing economy.[Source: Denver Post] — Several speakers at the Democratic National Convention attacked Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain’s record on abortion and birth control, and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano took a few shots at him for owning seven houses.  “I come from Arizona, and most of us only have one house,” she said.  “I live in a condo in downtown Phoenix…and I know exactly where it is.”

Phoenix’s Franklin School wins state preservation award

The non-profit Arizona Preservation Foundation and the State Historic Preservation Office, in conjunction with the Governor’s Office, announced the winners of the 2008 Governor’s Heritage Preservation Honor Awards at a luncheon ceremony at the Sixth Annual Statewide Historic Preservation Partnership Conference, “Preservation on the Line.”  Each year, 10 awards are given to individuals, businesses, organizations, and projects in recognition of outstanding achievements in preserving Arizona’s prehistoric and historic patrimony.  This year’s Honor Award winners are:

  • Brunenkant Bakery Building, Florence
  • Central Commercial Company Building, Kingman
  • City of Glendale’s Department of Planning
  • Curley School, Ajo (Grand Award)
  • Franklin Police and Fire High School, Phoenix
  • James A. Walsh Federal Building, Tucson
  • McCullough-Price House Restoration, Chandler
  • Noel Stowe, Arizona State University
  • Santa Cruz County Courthouse, Nogales
  • Tohono O’odham Nation Cultural Affairs Office

A panel of judges representing the fields of archaeology, architecture, history, and preservation, as well as a representative from the Governor’s Office, selected the winners from nominations submitted from across the state.  Click here for more details and photos of this year’s award recipients.  To view past Honor Award recipients, click here.

Cuts made to Arizona Housing Trust Fund

[Source: Teresa Brice, Local Initiatives Service Corp.] — I wanted to share the information LISC received on the impact on the Arizona Housing Trust Fund from the proposed state budget that is going to Governor Janet Napolitano for approval.  Essentially, it was the Senate budget, not the House version, that received approval to be sent to the Governor.  This included a $8.2 million cut to the Trust Fund (instead of the $30 million cut by the House), and $583,000 for program cuts (not $3.1 million).  There was no indication that a change in the funding formula was made.  While the session has not closed yet, this looks pretty certain.

LISC wishes to express its thanks to some groups that stepped up to its call for advocacy and sent information to their members, including AARP, Arizona Public Health AssociationArizona Bankers Association, and Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition (PAFCO).

You may want to send a note of thanks to the Democratic leadership in both the House and the Senate and a special note of thanks to Republicans who supported the budget sent to the Governor: On the House side, Reps. Reagan, Burns, Hershberger, and Mason.  On the Senate side: Senators Allen, Bee, O’Halleran, and Tibshraeny.  You can use this website to find e-mail and phone numbers.  You may also want to send a quick note to the Governor to voice your opinion.

Hey Phoenix, celebrate Independents Day…and Week

[Source: Kathee Austin, EVLiving] — Governor Janet Napolitano has proclaimed June 30-July 6 to be “Independents Week” for Arizona.  The proclamation coincides with Local First Arizona’s annual celebration of the independently owned, local businesses that are the backbone of a strong economy.  “Small businesses are critical to Arizona’s economy, comprising more than 90 percent of the businesses in our state,” the Governor explained in a statement.  “Whether they cater to neighborhoods, specialty services or other consumer needs, it is clear that these operations serve a vital role in the state’s and local communities’ success.  That is why I proclaimed June 30-July 6 as ‘Independents Week’ — recognizing the considerable contributions small businesses make to the state.”

Wow!  20% off.  Thanks!Local First Arizona, a coalition of more than 1,300 Arizona-based companies, will celebrate Independents Week by helping consumers sample the diverse and rich offering of their members.  The Golden Ticket will provide 20 percent off purchases at close to 50 local businesses, ranging from Wist Office Products to Armoire Home to Uncorked Wine Bar and more.  “Locally owned businesses return more of their resources to our community — through jobs, wages, support for nonprofits and much, much more,” explained Local First executive director Kimber Lanning.  “Independents give us the unique shopping and dining opportunities that make Arizona different from any place else on earth.  They are the Arizona-proud architects, engineers, and insurance providers who are your friends and neighbors.  We are thrilled that the governor has chosen to recognize them and we look forward to helping all Arizonans declare their love for Independents.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.  For complete details about Independents Week, including your very own Golden Ticket, click here.]

Last-minute state economic package may target downtown Phoenix

[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal, June 13, 2008] — State lawmakers and business advocates are putting together a tax and economic package that offers tax credits to solar energy companies, expands tax breaks to companies that do research and development work in Arizona, and allows for Tucson-area officials to tax restaurants and tourists to fund spring training baseball stadiums.  The package (which is still being formulated) could also offer some incentives or tax assistance to the Arizona Diamondbacks and allocate funds, possibly Arizona Lottery revenue, to repair and upgrade research buildings at ASU and other state universities.

The package does not include a $250 million property tax repeal advocated by a number of real estate advocates and chambers of commerce.  State lawmakers, business group leaders, and lobbyists are slated to meet on a possible tax package Monday, June 16 at the State Capitol.  It could be part of final budget deals being hammered out at the Legislature as the state wrestles with an expected $2 billion deficit.  That budget needs to be complete by the end of June…

Downtown Phoenix possibilities:

  • Sources familiar with the package being put together said the plan could also include some help for the Arizona Diamondbacks but were unclear of the specifics.  That assistance could entail tax changes that help the Diamondbacks or facilitating downtown Phoenix development around Chase Field…
  • How the package might relate to a program backed by ASU President Michael Crow, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, and Gov. Janet Napolitano is still being determined.  The trio support a $1.4 billion bond package that would repair and upgrade existing state university research buildings and further develop a University of Arizona medical school and biomedical campus in downtown Phoenix.  One possible avenue is to use state lottery revenue to fund repairs and upgrades, especially at ASU.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Governor announces foreclosure toll-free help line

On June 5, 2008 Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano announced the latest effort in a series of state initiatives to better serve Arizona families facing foreclosure.  Homeowners who are either delinquent on their mortgage or face foreclosure now have a new, dedicated 24/7 toll-free help line to reach a local Arizona foreclosure counselor: 1-877-448-1211.  “In response to a problem that is increasingly affecting so many Arizona families we are launching this new toll free number in an effort to urge homeowners to not delay –- to call today,” said Governor Napolitano.  “Troubled Arizona homeowners now have a phone number that will connect them to specialized services right here in Arizona.  We urge anyone who may be at risk of foreclosure to call a local foreclosure counselor today.”

The Arizona foreclosure help line, made available through a $1.3 million federal grant, will be a vital link between families facing a housing crisis and access to free foreclosure counseling appointments.  The Arizona Department of Housing is contracting with Community Information and Referral Services to staff the call center which will connect homeowners to a local, certified foreclosure counselor.